JWST’s IR View of NGC 1433

The James Webb Space Telescope is giving high resolution view into the fine structure of nearby galaxies and how the formation of young stars affects that structure. NGC 1433 is a barred spiral galaxy with a particularly bright core surrounded by a pair of star forming rings. In this image of NGC 1433, blue, green, and red were assigned to Webb’s MIRI data at 7.7, 10 and 11.3, and 21 µm.

Image Credits: NASA / ESA / CSA / J. Lee (NOIRLab).
Image processing: A. Pagan (STScI)

A Fading Singray

This video shows how the planetary nebula Hen 3-1357 (aka the Stingray Nebula) has faded since the mid 1990s. The nebula is first seen as photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1996, with filaments and tendrils of gas glowing bright blue at its center. Then it transitions to Hubble’s 2016 image, which shows a much dimmer nebula lacking in the pronounced wavy edges.

Video Credit: NASA / ESA/ STScI

Sharper Vision

This animation toggles between 2022 James Webb Space Telescope images and 2012 Hubble Space Telescope images of galaxy cluster MACS0647 and the very distant galaxy MACS0647-JD. JWST reveals far more detail than Hubble. Webb detects many more galaxies in the MACS0647 cluster. The three images of MACS0647-JD from JWST show two different features that are not the same color, with the larger area appearing redder and the smaller one appearing bluer. The Hubble images show only a single, pale, red, pixelated dot.

Video Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA /STScI

The Pillars of Creation: Hubble v. Webb

The Hubble Space Telescope’s 1995 image of the Pillars of Creation is one of the most well known astronomical pictures. It was updated in 2014 with a sharper, wider view taken in visible light; that’s shown on the left. The new, near-infrared-light view from the James Webb Space Telescope on the right cuts through more of the dust in this star-forming region. The  dusty pillars aren’t as opaque to infrared light, so many more new red stars can be seen.

Image Credits: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI

The Southern Ring Nebula

The NIRCam and MIRI instruments aboard the James Webb Space Telescope captured the data used to create these false color infrared images of this planetary nebula NGC 3132 (aka the Southern Ring Nebula).

The near infrared (NIRCam) image is on the left. The mid infrared (MIRI) image is on the right, and it is the first ever to resolve both stars of the binary pair at the center of the nebula.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA /CSA / STScI

Stephen’s Quintet in a New Light

Here’s the image of Stephen’s Quintet that was released as one to the first JWST images yesterday. It’s a false color image assembled from infrared data from the MIRI andNIRSpec instruments.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI

Here’s how Hubble sees the same view in visible light.Stephan's_Quintet

Image Credit: STScI

Stephan’s Quintet in the constellation Pegasus is a visual grouping of five galaxies. These galaxies are of interest because of their violent collisions. Four of the five galaxies in Stephan’s Quintet form a physical association, Hickson Compact Group 92, and are involved in a cosmic dance that most likely will end with the galaxies merging.


On 11 June, I posted a link to a YouTube video about how microlensing was used to find a black hole drifting through our galaxy. This animation was made from set of Hubble Space Telescope photos that capture the gravitational effects the black hole. It’s warping of the fabric of space can be measured by the way it warps the light of a background star, an effect called gravitational microlensing. As seen by Hubble, the background star momentarily brightened,  then faded back to normal brightness, as the foreground black hole drifted by.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI


36 Galactic Mile Posts

These 36 galaxies are some of the 40+ that have been observed by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope because they contain both Cepheid variable stars and supernovae. These stars are used measure the distance and refine the measurement of the rate of the expansion of the universe. Pictured above (from left to right and top to bottom) are NGC 7541, NGC 3021, NGC 5643, NGC 3254, NGC 3147, NGC 105, NGC 2608, NGC 3583, NGC 3147, Mrk 1337, NGC 5861, NGC 2525, NGC 1015, UGC 9391, NGC 691, NGC 7678, NGC 2442, NGC 5468, NGC 5917, NGC 4639, NGC 3972, The Antennae Galaxies, NGC 5584, M106, NGC 7250, NGC 3370, NGC 5728, NGC 4424, NGC 1559, NGC 3982, NGC 1448, NGC 4680, M101, NGC 1365, NGC 7329, and NGC 3447.

Image Credits: NASA / ESA / STScI

Earendel and Gravity Lensing

Earendel is the name that’s been given to the farthest star yet found. This shows the star Earendel’s position along a ripple in space-time (dotted line) that magnifies it and makes it possible for the star to be detected over such a great distance—nearly 13 billion light-years. The image also shows a cluster of stars that is mirrored on either side of the line of magnification. The distortion and magnification are created by the mass of a huge galaxy cluster located in between Earth and Earendel. The mass of the galaxy cluster warps the fabric of space, and looking through that space is like looking through a magnifying glass—along the edge of the glass or lens, the appearance of things on the other side are warped as well as magnified.

Image Credit: STScI

The Case of the Reappearing Supernova

This animation demonstrates how light from Supernova Requiem was split into multiple images by a massive foreground cluster of galaxies along its 10 billion light-year path to Earth. The cluster’s gravity warps the fabric of space which magnified, brightened, and split the supernova’s light into multiple mages detected in 2016 by the Hubble Space Telescope.

However, some of the exploded star’s light is taking a longer path to Earth. It passed through the cluster’s central region where gravity is the strongest. The combination of gravity’s pull, and the longer route across space has delayed the light’s arrival at Earth. That light is predicted to finally reach Earth in 2037.

Stay tuned.

Video Credits: NASA / ESTEC / STScI / Greg T. Bacon (STScI)

Hubble Is Back In Business

These images are among the first from Hubble after its return to full science operations. On the left is ARP-MADORE2115-273, a rarely observed example of a pair of interacting galaxies. On the right is ARP-MADORE0002-503, a large spiral galaxy with unusual spiral arms. Most disk galaxies have an even number of spiral arms, but this one has three.

Image Credits: Science—NASA / ESA / STScI / Julianne Dalcanton (UW)
Image processing—Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

The Rotation of Neptune

This video is a full-globe map of Neptune created from Hubble Space Telescope data taken in January, 2020. The planet completes a rotation every 16 hours.

Neptune has dynamic weather. White clouds of methane ice crystals swirl around the planet, and two giant dark spots, giant storms, circle around the northern hemisphere. Around the southern pole, banding is concentrated where the winds are blowing west to east, in the same direction as the planet’s rotation. but near the equator, the winds blow east to west, in the opposite direction as the planet’s rotation.

The giant vortex near the equator is 4,600 miles across, wider than the Atlantic Ocean. Its slightly smaller companion is 3,900 miles across.

Video Credit: STScI

AG Caraine

This is a 3D animation of the star AG Caraine, a star that is in a balancing act between gravity and radiation to avoid self-destruction. It’s surrounded by an expanding shell of gas and dust—a nebula about five light-years wide, That’s roughly the distance from the Sun to our nearest star Alpha Centauri.

Video Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI

Black Holes and Star Formation

The supermassive black holes lurking at the centers of galaxies draw from the disks of gas and dust that orbit them. Massive jets of matter result that affect star formation locally and farther afield. This animation shows a model of that interaction. Watch as the jets and winds from a supermassive black hole affect its host galaxy and the space hundreds of thousands of light-years away over millions of years.

Video Credit: STScI

VY Canis Majoris

VY Canis Majoris is a red hypergiant and pulsating variable star which is extremely rich in oxygen. It’s about 3,900 light-years from Earth in the slightly southern constellation of Canis Major. It is one of the largest known stars and one of the most luminous and massive red supergiants. It’s also one of the most luminous stars in the Milky Way. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the huge nebula of material cast off by VY Canis Majoris. This nebula is approximately a trillion miles across.

Image Credit: STScI

A Possible Future

Stars like our Sun end their lives by casting off their outer layers, briefly forming a spectacular “planetary nebula” like the Helix Nebula. In 5 billion years or so, our Sun will probably go through a similar blowout.

This brief video fades between images taken at different wavelengths which show different aspects of the nebula. Optical: Hot gas ejected from a dying star glows. Near-Infrared: Near-infrared light reveals cooler material. Mid-far-Infrared: Warm dust is identified in mid-infrared light. Infrared-Ultraviolet: The ultraviolet light traces the hot gas being expelled from the dying star.

Video Credit: STScI